25 Apr 2016

The ‘Talmud Scroll’ Wish Lists

My wife T (21) and I (28) started our serious married life in Chabua beginning Oct 1978 after an arranged marriage, one day honey moon on Mahabaleshwar beach, followed by one month Flood Relief operations in Calcutta  where T & I were housed in 5 star MLA quarters in Chowringhee to continue  honey mooning while I flew my pants off for flood relief, morning noon and night. It was a boon that my older sister then in Calcutta took charge of T . They went around Cal and had a ball while I earned my keep and let T spend it all in ‘New Market’ and gallivanting on Park Street.
Once we reached Chabua, it was a cultural shock for T.

We started with my bachelor’s room, the size of a toilet, with an oval aluminium mess tin and a spoon. The ‘mess tin’ was from my ‘camp  kit’, free issued by AF when I was commissioned eight years earlier. The rest of the camp kit, the kit bag, folding canvass cot with mosquito net and rods; they were the heirloom of Mohammad Ali, my exclusive Bangladeshi Jeeves for life, inherited on the first day when I joined 43 Sqn in Jorhat immediately after the 71 war. He was about 21 or 22 then, same age as T.

T & Ali hit it off from day one, mainly because he would regale her with never ending stories of my bachelor life and T was hell bent on hearing every word in the series of torrid stories. She said she wanted to get to know the man she married.  I was hoping to start with a clean slate and Ali was a strategic nuclear threat. He even offered to take T sightseeing on my mo-bike and introduce my old GFs. That is when I read the Riot Act, and threatened to chop off Ali’s balls.

Ali remained my Jeeves for 23 years, refusing to do anything unlawful which T ordered. He often quoted AF Act and AP 129 to T. He knew the law more than I did.  But between Ali and I there was no law, just exemplary loyalty arising from gratitude. He was a refugee with no family, except me. Perhaps reason why he believed that everything that I had was his too. My clothes including flying boots and flying overalls, Ray Ban, razor & after shave, mo-bike, music system… the works. I drew a line when I married, T was my personal property and he was to do Namaz in front of her five times a day. Ali was Bindas, never did Namaz, but he actually worshipped T, following her about like a Labrador puppy.

As a mighty F/L, I was considered a capitalist bachelor because I had T, Ali, a Java mo-bike, an Akai music system, and a quilt with a big cigarette burn in the centre. My pay was around Rs 450 including ‘Rs 75 as flying bounty’ for which I had to have a private insurance with minimum monthly premium of Rs 80. I had about Rs 5 in my bank, a shaving soap tin in Ali’s custody. T said with conviction, ‘it is enough and more, because you are a resourceful man’. My share of two boxes of chocolates and five tins of condensed milk every month, the flying rations to prevent ‘hypoglycaemia’, kept T happy, sugary and syrupy. I suffered only from hangovers, not hypoglycaemia .

Two large cast iron British army steel trunks with ‘Dowry’, essentials to  start a married life (pots & pans, a pressure cooker, bed sheets and so on, and some of the stupid presents that  we got during our wedding including a 2 feet high brass lamp), these were despatched from Madras to Chabua by goods train by my Rajput Rgt KCIO father-in-law. Our future chugged its way, at snail’s pace.

There were several good married friends living in ‘bashas’, and primates in bachelor quarters much like  a Zoo, who took good care of us. They ensured that we ate two meals a day for about three weeks. Then I took T to Chakabama, for two months, lived off the army while we continued to honey moon. On return, we would go to Chabua Rlwy Stn daily to enquire about our trunks, the ones with our heirloom. When it finally arrived after about four months journey, it  seemed heavier. We hauled them back to base gleefully in two rickshaws. When opened, one was full of stone aggregate (railway kind), the   other had a mile stone, ’50 miles Gaya’. It broke T’s heart, all that she had was ‘Gaya’.

Since there was no Araldite those days to mend broken hearts, I told T to sit and make a wish list, everything she wanted. I promised her that I would make good everything on that list.  After two weeks of very secretive activity, she excitedly produced her master piece, a roll about 2” wide and about 25’ long. She had torn ‘Legal’ sized paper into strips, stuck the strips together with goo made of boiled rice. It was her ‘Talmud Scroll’, in two parts, written in microscopic alphabets, in English.

The first part   ‘Mishnah’, the ‘must have’ started with a ‘Bajaj Mixie’. The second part ‘Gemara’, perspective plans for long term acquisitions, started with a Fridge, with a ‘2nd hand Car’ somewhere in the middle. It ended with a ‘House Of Our Own’. I fell down and hit my head on the empty steel trunks that had by now become a sofa cum dining set. When my head stopped bleeding and my heart beats reverted to normal, T gave me a choice. ‘Either be a Kartha (a doer) or change your name to Akartha (non doer), make good your promise if you are a Kartha’. She shook her bums and pushed off to the kitchen like a good woman. I lay there on the floor, cursing my father who didn’t name me an ‘Akartha’, which compelled me to go and be the ‘do and die’ type.

The ladies club in Chabua, who were adept at market survey, advised T that the first item on her Mishnah’ part of the Talmud Scroll, it was Rs 5 cheaper in Sadar Bazar in Delhi. ‘Damn Cheap’, T advised me in turn. After series of correspondence in free Pink Inlands (forces mail), authored by T but censored by me as Adjutant, my previous CO (late Jaya) in Air HQ  in Delhi was commissioned to procure a Bajaj Mixie from Sadar Bazar. It was air lifted by Comn Sqn aircraft under the PM’s seat, 43 Sqn Daks along with goats, and finally all by itself in a Mi-4 to Chabua.

At that time, T&I were staying in the adjacent 42 WEU mess, an empty zoo with only one primate, the mighty Godzilla, Pilot Officer Anjit Bose (with frequent visitor Peter George from Chabua Zoo). Both of them addressed me as ‘Big Brother’, but refused to call T as ‘Big Sister’. They called her nothing because she refused the offer to be called ‘Madam’.  ‘Aayyee, Madam is bad woman’, she said. It was young rascal Anjit who gave T her name as ’T’, as in ‘Abe Oh T’, though it made her mad. Anjit gave names to all. Poor Bisht and Yasmin in Dinjan, good friends of ours, were ‘Beauty & the Beast’. Yasmin, a lovely woman, was the beast. Behind my back rascal Anjit used to refer to me as ‘Big Brother Kirtar’, a habit which he still has.

For the inauguration of Bajaj’s Mixie, Anjit and Peter waited patiently for T to light a lamp, do ‘Aarti’, put soaked Dal into it to make Pakka (Dal) Vada. When T turned the Mixie on, it burst into flames. The motor got burnt.  I ran away.

I have no idea what Anjit did, perhaps tuned into Bajaj’s telephone in Gujarat, using 42 Wireless Experimental Unit’s eve’s dropping technology, sent hate telegrams using meteorology tele printer network, more hate mails through pink forces inland, whatever. After about 20 days, T got a telegram from Rahul Bajaj, ‘Sorry, New Mixie Despatched’. So one morning after about a month, the local distributor of Bajaj Mixie from Dibrugarh personally delivered a new one to T. It lasted us 33 yrs, till we retired it with much sadness and bought another new Bajaj Mixie from CSD Canteen, Rs 50 cheaper than the market.

Alwyn 165 fridge, the first item on T’s other ‘Gemara’ scroll, came by air from Hyderabad to Poona courtesy NSS Avro, at 30% employee discount, courtesy the father of one of my pupils in B Sqn when I was posted to NDA after I sent him a cheque for Rs 1745. He was an employee of Alwyn. It lasted us 29 yrs despite moves on postings all over India, storage in Hakkimpet hangar while T&I went to France. The Alwyn 165 finally became stand by ‘beer fridge’ when T went and bought a Samsung double door fridge from her salary as a Babu, from Babudom, the Kindom of GoI. I had no money, I was retired by AF by then as non-performing asset.

T has preserved the ‘Talmud Scrolls’ just to remind me that I was indeed an Akartha, many of the items on T’s scroll, especially the last item ‘house of our own’, is yet to be realised even after 38 yrs. T says I didn’t do a thing. She has forgotten my old share of two boxes of chocolates and five tins of condensed milk every month, the flying rations to prevent my ‘hypoglycaemia’, which once kept her happy, sugary and syrupy while I suffered only from hangovers, not hypoglycaemia !!!! I flew Mi-4s for a living, like Bond’s martini, shaken but not stirred, the pay wasn’t adequate to acquire everything on the Talmud Scroll wish list of our married life  !!!!!!

Reason why T left me. She is now married to GoI. I am now back to being a bachelor, looking for Ali. The bugger has gone back to B’Desh with dual passport; he is no longer a refugee like me. I also miss my mo-bike and Akai music system. My son hijacked the Ray Ban. ‘Pop, you don’t need’, it he said.  

The TV is all balls, not worth watching.



  1. Thanks for new stories sir. I will add it to my story bank. My 3.5 years old son keeps on asking for stories every night before he goes to sleep (I rather take him to sleep and many times end up sleeping before him, who ultimately sleeps when his mother makes him sleep)..He would definitely love it...as it is his favorite stories revolve around Helicopter, aeroplane and rocket...He is getting habits of saluting and salutes me now and then. When in josh, he screams "Jai Maa Kaali", that's fine, but after that he shouts "Aayo Gorkhaali"...does Hooraah push ups with me (atleast tries to do), so its visible to me where would he go once fully grown adult. I am sure your stories will help me keeping that little chap's dream alive for him. Please keep on adding.

    Thanks and regards,
    Chandan Modi

  2. The beautiful, heart-warming tale of a million middle class newly-weds, starting off low on resources but high on love and aspirations, excellently narrated. Brought back sweet memories of my own experiences during that phase. Sir, you are a story teller par excellence. Thanks for remembering, recollecting and recording for our sake.

    Whenever I start flying high with these fancy feelings about my great professional achievements, my wife waves her own yellowing second 'Talmud Scroll', of unfulfilled promises in front of me, bringing me (crashing) down to earth !

  3. Down memory lane....We eagerly wait for your write up.... Please keep writing..

  4. Down memory lane....We eagerly wait for your write up.... Please keep writing..

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  6. Reading this in California at 7:00 AM Iin the morning, all those beautiful memories of Chabua came flooding back, what happened to the AKAI finally? You are a good man, Kartar Singh. Will see you later this year.

    Anjit 42 W.E.U. C/O 99 A.P.O